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Book Review

‘The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789’

9/23/2015

Joseph Ellis has written a very readable history on the development of the Constitution of the United States, a process he termed the second American Revolution. He notes that the opening phrase of the Gettysburg address is in error — the nation was not brought forth at the Revolution. The states were operating under the Articles of Confederation, which was essentially a gentleman’s agreement among the states for the purpose of conducting the War of Independence. However, under the Articles, many states refused to send sufficient soldiers, and certainly didn’t send enough money, leaving the Confederation $70 million in debt.

By Joseph Ellis Knopf Publishing Group May 12, 2015 $27.95 320 pages

By Joseph Ellis
Knopf Publishing Group
May 12, 2015
$27.95
320 pages

Among many others, four major figures from the Revolution determined that the Articles were not sufficient to guarantee the success of the nation. These four (George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay) were instrumental in convening the Philadelphia Convention (later known as the Constitutional Convention) and guiding the ratification of the resulting Constitution.

Although the convention was originally intended to amend the Articles of Confederation, the “amendments” ended up being a complete rewrite, accomplished only with several major compromises. Hamilton, Madison and Jay wrote the Federalist Papers in support of the Constitution. As the rewritten document is adopted, the states propose amendments — 23 in all — they wanted added to the Constitution. Madison consolidated these into Bill of Rights.

Ellis gives context to the Constitution’s development as well as several of the amendments, giving relevance to the entire process that deserves our attention in the present day. CV

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Harriet Leitch retired to enjoy her grandchildren, garden, dogs, flute and to return to her love of books.

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